Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Butternut Squash Bisque; No-Knead Foccacia Tiles

During the past few weeks we’ve been very busy, and I haven’t had the opportunity to cook nearly as much as I would like. Plans to get together with friends this past weekend gave me a perfect, much needed, “excuse” to plan and cook a special fall menu at the lake house. Unfortunately they cancelled, but since I had already packed and lugged everything down from the farm, I went ahead and made it all just for Jack and me. Good thing, though, because we enjoyed the leftovers very much!

Both the soup and the bread recipe came from the October issue of Better Homes & Gardens. I’ve been enjoying their recipes in the past several months, and they seem to be publishing ones which are more to my taste than any other magazine does at this point.

On the menu was butternut squash bisque, no-knead foccacia tiles, mixed green salad, and apple crumb pie.

I prepared everything but the dessert. I gave up on the pie since I don’t want to make a whole one when it’s only the two of us to eat it! However, I didn’t want to carry all of the apples back home, so I made a quick apple crisp for dessert and some applesauce for the freezer. And now I have a pie crust in the freezer, all ready for Thanksgiving and a pumpkin filling.

First, the Butternut Squash Bisque. Since my garden produced such a bumper crop of butternut squash this past summer, I have become particularly adept at peeling the little buggers. The soup was, otherwise, very simple. Basically I sautéed chunks of squash and onion along with celery and carrot (I used only one half of the amount of butter and added some mild olive oil as well), added vegetable broth, chunks of apple, apple cider, and chopped chipotle pepper. These were cooked until the veggies were very tender, then I ran my hand-blender through it to make smooth. Light sour cream was whisked in and the result was a satin-y smooth, thick soup with an incredibly delicious flavor. The apple added an undertone to the taste of the butternut squash which was quite pleasant. Adding the chipotle was a stroke of genius on the part of the person who developed this recipe, because an underlying hint of smoky fire was nice as well. The only addition I would make next time is to add some thyme. Or maybe sprinkle some chopped fresh sage with the garnishes.

Of course, a soup is naked until the garnishes are added. I thinned a little sour cream with skim milk, drizzled that on top of the bisque then sprinkled smoked Gouda, minced parsley, and chopped turkey bacon. The smokiness of the Gouda and bacon complimented the butternut squash perfectly, and added a nice texture.

Next, the No-Knead Foccacia Tiles. I was intrigued by the name “foccacia tiles”, a no-knead dough that is stretched out to fit in a large baking pan, the dough scored into 6 sections, and each section topped with a variety of items. In the recipe, they suggested a pretty odd topping (thin slices of lime) but also sun-dried tomato, thinly sliced Roma tomato, and pumpkin seeds. I decided on chopped Kalamata olives, roasted red and yellow bell pepper, and thinly-sliced garlic and herbs for on the different sections of my foccacia. Sun-dried tomatoes would have been wonderful, but I couldn’t find the package which I was certain was in the pantry. That happens way too often.

Because it is a no-knead bread, you have to start it a day ahead (in order for the yeast to do its thing), but this is just such an easy method. And although I am a huge fan of carbs, especially in the form of thick, chewy bread, I think that next time I will reduce the dough recipe by 1/3. It seemed to both Jack and me that there was too much bread for the amount of toppings. Although I could certainly have increased the topping quantity, it would have still been a large ratio of bread-to-toppings. But, oh, what a flavor! We ate way too much of this, probably more than twice what we should have, but you just can’t beat fresh-from-the-oven bread. And we both love the no-knead breads since the flavor is so much more developed and complex that those that are done with a quick rise, or even a regular-length rise.

Next up, the salad. This is hands-down Jack’s favorite type of salad—greens, fruit, nuts. I could have added cheese and made him even happier, but there was smoked Gouda on the soup. :)

I have been buying Tanimura & Antle brand of artesian lettuces at Sam’s Club. 25 ounces for about $3.50, which beats the cost of plain bagged spinach in the grocery store. And these are so flavorful and pretty, a mixture of dark red and dark green baby Oak Leaf, Tango, and Gem. I added sliced carrots, dried cranberries, and toasted walnuts, and then a simple Italian vinaigrette. I know that it’s a good salad when Jack eats it without a single “ew, we’re having salad” remark!

As for the apple crisp, I’m not going to post the recipe since I made it on the fly and there are recipes galore for this type of dessert. I did reduce the butter in the topping by half, and added a little canola oil to make it crumbly, because we all know that liquid fats are so much healthier than solid fats, don’t we?!?!

The final gold star on our dinner was, the next day, Jack said (totally out of the blue, as he was supposed to be working on his bank statements): “There was not one part of that meal that was not super-excellent.”

Super-excellent! Even after of 26+ years of cooking for him, I still bask in that kind of praise. :)


Laura said...

I love butternut squash and foccacia both--sounds like a great dinner.

Vicci said...

Laura, you have to make the foccacia! The soup is very good too, but this bread... yum! :)